Laval’s Leylah Annie Fernandez’s dream run at the US Open ended with a loss in the finals to Britain’s Emma Radcanu 6-4,6-3 on Saturday afternoon at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was a battle of the team titans, the youngest at the Open since 1999 when 18 year-old Raducanu and 19 year-old Fernandez made improbable runs to the title match. “I honestly have no idea what to say,” Leylah Fernandez said in her post-match interview. “Today is going to be hard to recuperate from. Congratulations to Emma and to your team. I’m very proud of myself; with the way I’ve played these past two weeks and especially having the New York crowd back has been amazing. It’s definitely special for me to be here in the finals and having you cheering me on. Thank you so much New York, thank you everyone.”
Prior to accepting her runner-up trophy Fernandez asked if she could say one more thing and what the teen said spoke volumes on a milestone anniversary of a great American tragedy. “I know on this day it’s especially hard for New York and everyone around the United States,” Fernandez said on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “I just want to say that I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the past 20 years. Obviously I don’t know much about what really happened. But with the few information that I do have, I know that New York has suffered a lot the past years when it did happen. I just wanted to let them know that they’re so strong, they’re so resilient.”
At her young age of 19 to have the presence of mind to make that statement after losing the US Open championship drew an ovation from the crowd and praise from around the globe. Former world No. 1 and 2003 US Open Champion Andy Roddick Tweeted, “Leylah asking for the mic back to acknowledge 9/11 was one of the classiest, most empathetic, and mature things I’ve ever seen in a post game moment ……… and she’s only 19. I’m blown away.”
Fernandez, after knocking off some of the top players in the world including a pair of former US Open champions came up against Raducanu, who has been playing with blinders on, becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam event in the modern era. Raducanu, ranked 145th in the world had to win three qualifying rounds to advance to the main draw. The Toronto born Raducanu didn’t drop a set on the way to the title tilt and she continued that trend taking Fernandez in two sets.
Fernandez entered the event ranked 73rd in the world and held the crowd in the palm of her hand as she bested No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 3 Naomi Osaka and No. 5 Elina Svitolina on her way to the final.
Raducanu was spot on, playing aggressive tennis with big hits and placing balls on the line to out-duel Fernandez. Whatever Fernadez pulled from her bag of shots, Raducanu had an answer.
The Brit closed out the first set with a forehand winner in play that saw the opponents exchange breaks but had Fernandez chasing Raducanu.
The second set had Raducanu in control holding a 5-3 lead and serving for the championship but Fernandez started to make a small comeback looking to break serve and keep her hopes alive. On a return shot Raducanu slid on the court cutting her knee to make a required medical time out to attend to the injury. She put that incident in the back of her mind and on her third match point Raducanu stroked and ace to seal the deal and crown her US Open women’s champion. “I really want to congratulate Leylah and her team on an incredible fortnight,” Emma Raducanu said in her post-match interview. “She played some incredible tennis and beat some of the top players in the world. It was an incredibly tough match and I thought the level was extremely high. I hope that we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully finals.”
She will now move into the 30’s for her ranking and will collect $1,250,000 (US) as the runner up but, “I hope to be back here in the finals and this time with the right trophy,” Fernandez said.